The law school offers several classes which focus on issues of gender. Students may also obtain law school credit for 6 credit hours of graduate level courses at other Washington University schools, including the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies department in the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Social Work. Examples of law courses are:
Feminist Legal Theory
In this course, we will read feminist theory, queer theory, and other critical theory in order to examine constructions of gender and the roles legal systems play in those constructions. We will explore some of the general themes and debates that have emerged as theorists attempt to understand and critique the law´s explicit and implicit constructions of gender as they relate to various groups of women and men. These themes and debates will include the promise and limits of equal protection doctrine, attempts to challenge the gender neutrality of social norms, intersectionality and the meaning of gender, and the benefits and harms of identity politics. We will also explore specific applications of theory to law and social policy, including topics related to work and wealth distribution, intimate and familial relationships, identity performance and constraints on agency, and the regulation of sexuality.
Domestic Violence and the Law
This two-credit interdisciplinary course will focus on the intersection of law and social work in relation to domestic violence and the law, with particular focus on Missouri. The course is designed for law students who may practice in this substantive area when they graduate/pass the Bar exam, social work students who may practice in this area as court advocates or directors of domestic violence agencies, and law students and social workers who may be doing public policy work in this area. This course will start with an overview of the nature & dynamics of domestic violence, and include subjects such as power & control, types of abuse, dangers when leaving, necessity for safety planning, and multiple oppressions. Thereafter, the course will lay the groundwork for an analysis of the law with an historical perspective by covering the state of the law prior to the passage of specialized criminal and civil laws, the necessity for these laws, and directed study of the laws that were passed and why. One area of concentration in this analysis will be how the law can be used to change social conditions and policy/practices of systems. In this analysis, we will cover Missouri´s Adult Abuse Law (including Consents), Missouri Domestic Assault Statutes, Full Faith and Credit, the Federal Violence Against Women Act and the Lautenberg Amendment related to firearms, and other selected topics. The course will also examine improvements made in conditions for domestic violence victims/survivors and system response as result of passage of the laws, and the unintended consequences that have resulted (e.g. mandatory arrest sometimes means arrest of victims/survivors, and may disempower or endanger victims/survivors). We will also cover the emergence of Domestic Violence Courts and emerging restorative justice responses to domestic violence.
Regulating Sex Seminar
Emphasizing culture, society, and the ways both change over time, this seminar will examine sexuality and law as discourses and as regulatory instruments. In particular, the seminar will consider how law does and does not regulate sexual practice, norms, and values and how, in turn, sexual forces shape law. This explicitly interdisciplinary course uses materials from law, literature, and popular culture and contrasts conventional legal analysis with feminist and other alternative frameworks, including queer theory, social constructionism, intersectionality theory, and symbolic interactionism. Possible topics covered include sexuality during slavery and bondage, the medicalization of sex, traditional marriage and various alternatives, pregnancy, sexual initiation and education, sex research, and sexual citizenship. Professor Susan Appleton from the School of Law and Professor Susan Stiritz from the WGSS Program will co-teach the seminar. Enrollment will include a mix of law students and WGSS students. Law students will become acquainted with sources, methodologies, and frameworks that highlight the dynamic relationship between culture and law, privacy and legal regulation, and power and sexual citizenship. WGSS students will become acquainted with the language of law, assumptions underlying legal regulation, and law´s aspirations and shortcomings. All students will have opportunities to converse across disciplines, to perform multidisciplinary research, and to use both personal experiences and imagination to enrich understanding.
Women and the Law—Teaching Opportunity, Application Required
For more than a dozen years, teams of three or four selected Washington University Law students have taught an undergraduate course on Women & the Law (currently offered through Arts & Sciences in conjunction with the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program) under the supervision of law school faculty members. Broadly, this course examines the intersection of gender and law. The specific topics covered, however, have varied over the years according to the instructors’ preferences.